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Russell P. Vidoloff
Charleston Gazette

West Virginia Veterans Memorial

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Russell P. Vidoloff
1920-1941

"Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid. They have earned our undying gratitude. America will never forget their sacrifices."

Harry Truman

Russell P. Vidoloff was the first child born to Pete Vidoloff and Elsie Duncan Vidoloff. He was born in the year 1920 and lived in the community of Washington, located in Boone County, West Virginia. At the time of his birth, his father Pete, who was from Bulgaria originally, was 25 years of age, while his mother Elsie, who was a West Virginia native, was only 15 years of age. Pete worked in the coal mines of the state, earning enough money for the small family to begin to grow.

U.S. Federal Census records show that Pete and Elsie had two more children in the next few years, including Dana Vidoloff, born around 1922, and Mathew Vidoloff, born around 1925. Russell’s Find A Grave page indicates that Pete Vidoloff died in 1927, and Elsie was remarried around 1930 to Pete Cholakoff, a common practice among coal-mining families. The now blended family moved to the district of Curry in Putnam County, West Virginia. The new couple had an additional two children, Mark Cholakoff, born around 1931, and Paul Cholakoff, born around 1933.

The family continued to move around for several more years, ending up in the coal town of Nellis in Boone County, West Virginia, by 1935, and then in Kanawha and Fayette counties by 1940. They lived in coal communities as many West Virginia workers did at that time. They resided in house number 68 along Paint Creek in Mahan. Russell, around 20 years old at the time, worked as a track layer for 46 weeks out of the year, making an annual income of $1,050. He had completed an elementary school education and had attended up through the seventh grade of school, which was typical for this time.

According to U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946, Russell felt the call to service of his country and enlisted in the Army on December 4, 1940. He enlisted through the military post of Fort Hayes in Columbus, Ohio, and entered the Coast Artillery Corps, also called the Army Mine Planter Service. He was a private in the Army and enlisted specifically for the Hawaiian Department. At around 6 feet tall, 145 pounds, and 20 years of age, Russell was exactly the material the Army was looking for in its recruits.

Russell was a member of the HQ Squadron, 15th Pursuit Group, a wing of the U.S. Air Force at the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. The group was organized from parts of the 18th Pursuit Group at Wheeler Field in Hawaii just prior to World War II. It was part of the Pacific Air Forces and participated solely in the Pacific Theater of WWII. During the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese, the 15th Pursuit Group’s combat effectiveness was essentially destroyed. After remanning, the group went on to provide defense for Hawaii and escort bombers to Japan and to earn a Distinguished Unit Citation. (“15th Fighter Group,” 2004, accessed 1 August 2017, http://www.7thfighter.com/15thfg/index.htm.)

Russell died at Hickam Field, Hawaii, a U.S. Air Force installation. The Imperial Japanese Navy bombed Hickam to prevent U.S. air opposition for their retreat to their aircraft carriers. Extensive damage was afflicted onto the aircraft and the men stationed there, with 189 killed and 303 wounded. After rebuilding, the field became a hub for assembling aircraft and training new pilots. It was also nicknamed “America’s Bridge Across the Pacific” as it transported supplies to and removed the wounded from the battle areas. (David Stubblebine, “Hickam Field,” World War II Database, accessed 1 August 2017, http://ww2db.com/facility/Hickam_Field/.)

Private Russell P. Vidoloff died valiantly in service to his country. His body was sent back to Montgomery, West Virginia, in the first shipment of deceased veterans arriving in the United States from the Pacific theater. (“Pvt. Russell Vidoloff Returned for Burial,” Charleston Gazette, 28 October 1947, p. 14.) He was buried in Montgomery Memorial Park, London, West Virginia, at 2 o’clock in the afternoon on Wednesday, October 28, 1947. Reverend Okie Webb of Cannelton provided the service, along with the Kanawha Valley Post No. 58, American Legion.

Article prepared by Olivia Ward, George Washington High School Advanced Placement U.S. History
2017

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Russell P. Vidoloff

West Virginia Archives and History welcomes any additional information that can be provided about these veterans, including photographs, family names, letters and other relevant personal history.


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